Thursday, May 05, 2011

Whole Foods Market to Rate Natural Cleaning Products

This week, Whole Foods Market announced a plan to launch a color-coded "Eco-Scale Rating System." Essentially, the company plans to require that manufacturers of the green cleaning products it stocks list the ingredients on the packaging. The government does not currently require cleaning products to be labeled. Whole Foods will also have a third party company independently verify the products' safety and environmental impact to give the product its Eco-Scale rating. The new rating system is expected to be fully launced by April 2012.

I think this is a step in the right direction but this news raised a few questions for me when I read it. First, there are many cleaning products that market themselves as natural. But, I can usually tell with one whiff whether they contain synthetic fragrances. In my opinion, one of the manufacturers guilty of using an offensive amount of synthetic fragrances is Caldrea/Mrs. Meyer. Unless they change their formula, I believe their products will likely score an "orange" rating according to Whole Foods' rating scale.

Second, green products are already expensive. If manufacturers decide to change their formulas to get a higher rating on the scale, won't that drive prices up even further? I'm sure that Whole Foods incurred expenses to develop and implement this program. How will launching this program affect their already high prices overall? Also, why just pick on cleaning products? The natural skin care aisle is cluttered with products that say they're natural but still contain synthetic ingredients.

I applaud Whole Foods for at least requiring the manufacturers to label their products. And, I'm all for helping to save the environment. But, I'm not sure that I see how the benefit outweighs the cost, for a few reasons.

  1. They're still going to be selling products that don't score as well on the scale. At the end of the day, when faced with products that offer similar quality and benefits, consumers will base their decision on price. If the manufacturers with lower ratings have managed to keep their price constant because they haven't changed their formula, then there's a good chance that people will buy the product with the orange label and not the green one.
  2. The requirement for the top "green" rating is that the product be 100% natural or not contain any petroleum-derived ingredients. This has always been a pet peeve of mine. So many natural product manufacturers use "vegetable-derived" ingredients and label their products as natural. Just because an ingredient is derived from a natural source does not mean the end-product is natural. It's a shame that Whole Foods is allowing manufacturers who do this to earn a "green" label.
In my opinion 100% natural should be the only standard for the "green" label. Otherwise, what's the point?


Kyla Matton said...

Some great points raised in this post. Kudos!

I’m blogging my way back from Z to A and my “W” post is right here.

Joyce Lansky said...

It seems like anything we do to try to make our environment better costs money.